Photo by Chris Abney Unsplash

Recently I've noticed that a significant percentage of the women I look up to seem to own a lot of plants.

There also seems to be a clear overlap between women who have overcome difficulties to find happiness and women who own and care for huge rooms of green, glorious ferns, shoots, and sprawling palms.

This New Year's Eve, Maisie Williams added herself to the list when she posted about her newfound love for gardening.

"2020 will probably be filled with more days spent tending our pot plant children which sounds perfect to me," she wrote in an inspiring Instagram post, which also detailed her journey into the land of self-love and self-actualization. (I don't think she was talking about *that* kind of pot, but the message is overall quite inspiring).

One of my all-time idols, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is also open about her plants (and how they connect to her own growth). The congresswoman has spoken out about how her gardening hobby is a form of "self-care" and "mindfulness," and in one Instagram story, she wrote, "I feel like plants are a great accountability partner because they literally die if you don't take time to tend to yourself and to them."

GND Gardening - @ocasio2018

The examples go on and on. Sex-positive activist and artist Favianna Rodriguez also has a lot to say about the benefits of gardening. In a post about how her life has changed a year after leaving an abusive relationship, she wrote, "I focused on unlearning my patterns and creating new practices and ways of being. The most powerful thing I did was to shift my attention to doing things for myself, like having plants, having a garden, masturbating much more, and adopting a plant-based diet. By shifting towards ways I could love myself, either through my own body or my environment, I was learning new ways of being."

What I notice about many plant-loving women is that their love of plants seems to coincide with a personal growth trajectory, a movement towards internal healing and taking up space. This doesn't seem like a coincidence.

The Plant Girl: The New VSCO Girl, or Something More?

I've heard whispers of a "plant-girl" prototype around social media, which makes me worried that plant-owning has or will just become another act of performative wellness—like Kylie Jenner lips or fitbloggers. It's already been connected to millennials, whom the New York Times recently accused of "opting to fill their voids — both decorative and emotional — with houseplants." Even worse, it might become a new version of the #VSCOGirl stereotype, a meaningless term that somehow became yet another way of putting down teen girls on the Internet.

Still, something about all the posts tagged #plantgirl feels—if not outside of Instagram capitalism and media commodification then, at the least, not streamlined to fit into it. A lot of them are grainy and slightly out of focus. They seem to be taken by people whose phones don't capture everything in magical high-definition. Different from the cabin or van-bloggers, plant-tenders seem less focused on external beauty, more focused on internal growth, small moments, and reclaiming stolen space.

Certainly, this work is not easy. Being a plant girl seems like a lot of effort—just like being AOC is certainly a lot of work, or finding self-love after a childhood spent on Game of Thrones is probably also a moderate amount of work. But maybe that's the point. Plants yield a little oxygen, a little greenery, and sometimes a little nourishment; they don't provide the immediate thrill that so many of us are conditioned to seek out in our daily lives, and instead require repetitive yet careful attention. There is no end-point to their growth. In a world where we're all constantly seeking that dopamine rush of success, maybe plants could be part of the antidote.

I'm sure that men and people of all genders could benefit greatly from plant-growing; the "plant girl" or "plant lady" archetype doesn't necessarily have to be gendered. Also, many plant-growers don't use social media or have been growing plants for generations, of course.

But I'm interested in that specific intersection between healing and femininity and coming-of-age in the twenty-first century because I think survival during this time might be found at some crossroads between these things. If plants aren't the key, they might be vital hints.

Gardening: An Old Trick for Modern Times

The fact that gardening is beneficial for your health is not news, and indeed, it's been proven many times that the benefits of plant-keeping are innumerable. Gardening can work as a counter to the toxicity of modern life in so many ways—for example, the simple act of putting your hands in soil can be a valuable balm for the monotony of the cubicle life. "When you sit at a desk all day, there's something about literally putting your hands in the dirt, digging, and actually creating something that's really beautiful," said seasoned gardener Gillian Aldrich.

Gardening can also combat attention fatigue that stems from our overwhelming 24/7 news cycle. In a world where we're constantly asked to devote our total attention to flickering stories and images, the persistence of a steadfast potted plant can be immensely healing.

Growing A Jungle In My New York

Gardening can also help alleviate symptoms of depression, dementia, bipolar disorder, and much more, according to a multitude of studies. If you've got an outdoor garden, the benefits of spending time outside are countless.

But indoor houseplants can also be vital in terms of removing toxins from the air and even boosting your mood. One recent study even found that women who live their lives surrounded by plants lived significantly longer and had better mental health than those who did not. And horticulture therapy, a practice that uses gardening as a form of healing, has been used for hundreds of years and has helped everyone from returning veterans to hospice patients to suffering communities.

Of course, plants have been used as medicine since ancient times. Though the scientific community is just waking up to the benefits of things like psychedelics and the importance of the mind-body connection, this is age-old knowledge.

Many people who do use psychedelics report feeling a deep, profound connection to nature, and some even report that they can hear plants speaking while on the drug. While growing your own plants isn't the same as actually communing with them, many people have long believed that plants can interact with humans on subconscious levels, realigning negative wavelengths just as they convert carbon into oxygen and sunlight into energy.

Secret life of Plants

We All Need to Start Gardens

Not all of us can be Maisie Williams or AOC, and not all of us can suddenly change our lives and start gardens and suddenly heal.

Personally, I know I'm not yet ready to be a plant mom. I'm still too irresponsible to risk anything other than a few succulents. Also, plants are expensive and require a certain amount of care and intuition that many people simply cannot afford in this day and age, even if they could gladly provide it.

But is it so stupid to imagine that this paradigm could change and that in the future, more of us might have gardens? That more of us might live more sustainably? That more of us might be content with small victories, with tending to things rather than forcing them into doomed spirals of exponential growth? Is it stupid to imagine that someday, I might be a plant lady? Is it crazy to imagine that the planet could heal?

Maybe it is—maybe we're doomed—but then again, every forest starts with a single seed. I'm sure my desire to start a garden is really emblematic of a desire to take better care of myself and the world around me. I think it's connected to a fear of what's happened to the planet, as we can see in the Australian bushfires that are ripping apart the Australian continent, and a desire to ground myself in the beauty of the earth if only to remember what matters now and then.

I think Hayley Heynderickx puts it best in the song "Oom Sha La La," off her debut LP, I Need to Start A Garden. "I'm tired of my mind getting heavy with mold," she sings, and then her voice shifts to a scream. "I need to start a garden." She shouts the last line over and over again as the music builds.

It's the sound of panic—and of hope, placed in the earth one seed at a time, with care and dedication, and in faith that someday, something might grow.


Why Is Wilder Woods Hiding His Identity?

What famous face lies behind the carefully placed hand.

Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

Wilder Woods has only released two songs, "Sure Ain't" and "Someday Soon," both of which have made their way onto multiple major playlists like "Morning Coffee Acoustic," "Alternative Nation," and "New Music Friday" — difficult feats for a brand new artist.

Introducing Wilder Woods

Considering the relatively few plays the songs have received thus far (about 100,000 cumulatively) it's clear this musician has some pretty serious industry firepower behind him (he's signed to Atlantic records). But the hype is for good reason — both songs are well written, tightly produced, and undeniably catchy. They incorporate R&B and soul influences while still capturing the dynamic movement of folk-pop. Most notably, Wilder Woods' vocals are jaw-dropping, he effortlessly and powerfully skates across scales, evoking goosebumps through his growling belts and soft falsetto. But that's not what makes Wilder Woods so interesting.

Most artists who are signed to a major label like Atlantic records have years of content under their belts before they're even considered — content that is searchable online. But not Wilder Woods. There are no YouTube videos, all his social media pages are brand new, and you can't even find so much as his real name or hometown. Even stranger, the artist's face is hidden not only on the album art, but in the PR video released to promote his new songs, and in his social media.

Introducing Wilder

In fact, no matter how hard you search, there is not a single picture or video available of Wilder Woods in which his face is visible, and this simply can't be a coincidence. All that can be pieced together is that the singer is a tall, white man with slicked back dirty blonde hair and a taste for a well-tailored suit. This leads us to believe that perhaps we already know Wilder Woods, and his PR team has decided to wait to reveal his identity.

If you go to the artist's page on Shorefire Media, his new music is described as, "Simultaneously vulnerable and self-assured, the songs reflect a rich well of experience and a bold new artistic leap, pairing intimate, introspective lyricism with effortless swagger and monster hooks." Plus, the press release ends with the vague but tantalizing promise that "More information and music from Wilder Woods will be revealed soon and an album is planned for release on Atlantic Records later this year." It's clear that the face behind the hand is one that we're expected to recognize and find consequential when finally revealed.

So, we made it our mission to uncover the identity of Wilder Woods. After a day of side by side song comparisons and analyzing the hands and ears of various fair-haired male artists, we have several theories.

Our first thought was that the mystery singer is Billie Eilish's brother, FINNEAS, who already has a semi-successful solo career. He has the right coloring, the right notoriety, and a voice that, with a little production magic, could make a decent match to that of Wilder Woods.

But as we listened further, several things came to mind. First, when would FINNEAS have had the time to launch a new solo project in the midst of recording and producing his sister's mega-hit album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? Not only that, but why would he abandon his solo career just to launch another solo career under a different name with an only slightly different musical style? Perhaps most conclusively, after extensive listening, we just don't think FINNEAS has the vocal talent the singer behind Wilder Woods possesses. We aren't ruling it out, but we will proceed to other theories.

Next, we considered that Wilder Woods was quoted saying, "This music represents something totally fresh and new for me," meaning that whatever he sang before is significantly different than the two new singles. With the distinctive, gravelly mystery voice in mind, we next turned our attention to Icelandic band KALEO. Jökull Júlíusson, the band's lead singer, has a similarly exceptional and rasping voice, and with a new haircut and a style makeover, the match was a possibility. Plus, going from a band to a solo project would make more sense than FINNEAS jumping from solo project to solo project. Still, something didn't seem quite right.

Scouring the Wilder Woods Facebook page, we soon found an interesting comment from a fan: "Well played, Wilder Woods. You can hide your face but you can't hide that voice! Amazing songs so far, can't wait to hear some more from you... 🐻" The enigmatic bear emoji led us to briefly believe that the mystery artist could be the lead singer of Bear Den, Andrew Davie. But listening to the two artist's songs side by side, the voices just didn't quite match. Which, in a last-ditch effort, led us to search the highly intelligent phrase "bear singer?" on Google, which, at last, led us to Bear Rinehart, the lead singer of NEEDTOBREATHE.

Finally, our most solid ID yet.

Even more striking than the physical similarities are the similarities between the vocal stylings, which when finally compared, made the mystery seem obvious all along.

Now that we're fairly certain of the identity of this talented new musical act, we're left with questions: is NEEDTOBREATHE breaking up? Why wouldn't they capitalize on Bear Rinehart's fame to promote his new project? Is his team planning a big reveal? Why is he striking out on his own?

These questions remain unanswered for now, but we hope all will soon come to light when Wilder Woods' album is released later this year. In a statement about the music, possibly-Rinehart alluded to his dual identity, saying, "There are two distinct sides to this music," he says. "There's the Wilder side, which is all about love and flirtation and desire; and the Woods side, which is more serious and reflective. We all contain multitudes, and you have to recognize and honor all the different parts of yourself if you ever want to feel whole." Perhaps, this new musical venture is intended as a way for Rinehart to simply honor a different part of himself.

Brooke Ivey Johnsonis a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

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Welcome back to "Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend."

This week we have Jordan Peele's highly anticipated movie, Us.



Director Jordan Peele's follow up to his 2017 hit, Get Out, Us, features a family of four who find themselves targeted by an evil group of strangers who look exactly like them. The trailer suggests a movie chock full of terrifying, borderline-surreal imagery alongside the genuinely hilarious comedic notes that made Get Out such a success. The movie currently boasts a 98% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so if you can stomach the horror, this is my main recommendation for the weekend.


Ramen Shop

Ramen Shop Trailer #1 (2019) | Movieclips

A Singaporean film, Ramen Teh or Ramen Shop, tells the story of a Japanese ramen chef who travels to Singapore after discovering his Singaporean mother's notebook amongst his recently deceased father's belongings. He travels with the purpose of learning more about his family history, ultimately finding romance and a greater connection to food. The trailer features some gorgeous shots of ramen, so if you're into stories about the power of great food, Ramen Shop may be worth your while.

Dragged Across Concrete

Dragged Across Concrete (2019 Movie) Official Trailer – Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Jennifer

Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson star as two cops gone bad in director S. Craig Zahler's newest crime thriller. After Gibson's act of police brutality leads to his and his partner's suspension from the force, the disgraced cops use their underworld connections to secure financial support while they're off-duty. Zahler has a knack for depicting violence, as evidenced by his previous feature Bone Tomahawk, so it stands to reason Dragged Across Concrete will have a similar flair.

Hotel Mumbai

HOTEL MUMBAI Official Trailer (2019) Dev Patel, Armie Hammer

A thriller based on the real 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in India, Hotel Mumbai stars Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) as a hotel employee working his shift when the terrorists strike. Now, Dev, his fellow staff members, and a number of guests, including Armie Hammer, must band together to survive and escape the bloodshed. If you're a fan of thrillers and dramatizations of true events, Hotel Mumbai should be right up your alley.

Out of Blue

OUT OF BLUE Official Trailer (2019) Patricia Clarkson, Toby Jones Mystery Movie

In mystery/suspense drama Out of Blue, Academy Award-nominated actress Patricia Clarkson plays Mike Hoolihan, a cop investigating the murder of a renowned astrophysicist. The trailer is baffling. The dialogue seems really bad, so bad it might be a joke, although it's honestly hard to tell. For instance, when a man utters, "Jesus Christ," Clarkson responds, "I don't think Jesus had much to do with this." Could that line have possibly been written seriously? If you're brave enough, watch the movie and find out.

Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at

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